Everett Golson would rather be facing an onrushing surge of 320-pounders than one little ol’ skinny microphone held by one little ol’ scrawny reporter.
He’s come a long way since he was first shoved in front of a gaggle of media after being named starting quarterback last August, both in the interview room and on the gridiron.
In his first year of action for the Irish, he helped lead them to a 12-0 regular season and a trip to the national championship game against Alabama.
Unlike like his turnaround in the turnover department - he threw just three interceptions over his last 229 pass attempts and fumbled once (Notre Dame recovered) over his final six games - Golson’s improvement with the media has come at a slower, more measured pace.
At a recent charity event in his hometown of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Golson was asked to explain just what it was that got him into trouble, and the hemming and hawing and fidgeting took over. He didn’t fall back on his “poor academic judgment” line, which was Notre Dame’s creatively concealing way of saying that he got caught cheating. He just avoided answering.
The most poignant and only real thing of substance to come out of the interview was what his intentions are after serving his one-semester exclusion from Notre Dame this fall.
After avoiding a couple of questions pertaining to his transgression -- “I can’t tell you that…I can’t tell you that either” - Golson said the magic words.
“I can tell you this: I will be returning (to Notre Dame),” Golson said. “I look forward to returning in the spring. That’s pretty much it.”
In a perfect world, young students would recognize the value of putting in the work to obtain knowledge and wouldn’t take shortcuts. But it does happen - more than once, in some cases, probably by your son and daughter or your friend’s son and daughter or your neighbor’s son and daughter.
Most of the time, you get away with it. When you’re caught and you’re a football player, rather than it being a private matter between professor and student, it becomes a national news story worthy of a “breaking news” tag.
Golson’s learning curve with the media will remain steep, which opens him up for a variety of interpretations for the self-proclaimed linguists of the world who think they know exactly how Golson should phrase every response.
For some, if Golson doesn’t take a knee, bow his head and plead for forgiveness to every Notre Dame fan that has ever donned the Irish garb, he’s not taking responsibility for his actions.
The action of returning to Notre Dame says all that needs to be said.
Golson likely will always have great difficulty articulating his thoughts in front of a camera. He’ll tense up when it’s time to deliver the lines that he’s rehearsed with Notre Dame’s sports information department. You can almost see Golson’s gears turning in his head as he tries to recall the words that Notre Dame’s handlers have force-fed him.
That’s why former Notre Dame sports information director/associate athletics director Roger Valdiserri used to insist that the Irish players face the music with the media during good times and bad. It was a tremendous learning experience - often times like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool without the slightest idea how to swim - that forced student-athletes to deal with the anxiety of notoriety/public speaking.
But the real lesson learned here deals with how you react to adversity when cornered and caught. Do you run away from the firm and uncompromising hand of Notre Dame academics, or do you look for a safer haven where academics are a minor diversion from the football field?
Golson has chosen to stand firm and not run from adversity. His actions - provided that he follows through and returns to Notre Dame - speak much more eloquently than his mastery of the interview, and it shows a level of maturity that many others in a similar situation would not choose.
Should Golson stand in front of the camera and say that he wants to apologize to his coaches, teammates and all Notre Dame fans out there that are impacted by his immature and reckless decision-making? Sure, that would be great. It would make him look good and it would make Notre Dame look good. It also would make the politically-correct police very happy.
But that’s not who Golson is. His actions are going to have to speak much louder - and more accurately - than his words. Ultimately, that’s all that really matters.